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THE WOODLANDS, Texas The first Houston-area location of specialty grocer Trader Joe s opened in the Woodlands on Friday and hundreds of ecstatic shoppers jammed the aisles for the grand opening.

When doors opened at 8 a.m., crowds were already present to shop for the California-based company s value-priced gourmet and organic products.

Shoppers crowded shoulder to shoulder and stood in cashier lines snaking around aisles, but nobody seemed to care much about the inconvenience.  At long last, they said, Trader Joe s had come to town.

I used to go to California, to the west coast, said Grace Hobby, smiling as she hovered over a display of the store s cheap wine. The first place I go is Trader Joe s. Yeah, that s my favorite place.

This chain of 372 stores stocks its shelves with eclectic and inexpensive groceries, from chicken-less chicken to cookie butter. If you re interested, you can buy turkey corn dogs and slather them with organic ketchup. Or you can load your freezer tofurkey.

This is ridiculous, said Chandra Scruggs, who seemed as excited as kid at SplashTown. I am amazed at all the cheap, inexpensive things that are organic that you re getting for a low price. You know, we drove from Sugar Land and Katy just to come out here.

But by far, its most famous attraction is its dirt cheap wine bearing the label Charles Shaw, better known as Two Buck Chuck. For many years, Trader Joe s sold the stuff for a paltry two dollars a bottle, a fire sale price that alarmed a lot of people in the wine industry. Now the price tag is $2.99, but some drinkers still swear by it.

Two Buck Chuck for 2.99! crowed Kathy Sharples, clutching two bottles of the cheap booze. This is great! And the champagne is good. My sister had it in California for her wedding. So load up!

Check-out lines on opening day had some people waiting more than 45 minutes. They joked about it, but mostly didn t seem to mind the long wait.

When I lived in Austin, I used to go to Trader Joe s and buy stuff and ship it back to myself, said Nancy Wanamaker, loading up her basket in the produce department.

Trader Joe s is one of the top preferred grocers in the country, according to an April rating by Consumer Reports.

Trader Joe s plans to open two more stores in the Houston area later this year.  One on Memorial Drive near Voss is scheduled to open its doors in the fourth quarter of this year. Another will open in the historic Alabama Theater building in September.

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